Citadel running back Cam Jackson’s 74-yard touchdown run in the third quarter broke open a one-score game and lifted the Bulldogs to a 31-14 win over Newberry on Saturday night in the season opener.
The Citadel (1-0) controlled the first half, but led only 14-7 at the break. Newberry threatened to tie the game in the third before Jackson took a pitch from quarterback Dominique Allen and raced up the left sideline to put the game out of reach behind a Bulldog defense that allowed only 42 yards in the opening half.
Second-year head coach Brent Thomson improved to 2-0 in openers at The Citadel. His team didn’t finish in the first half, but the veterans stepped up in the second half to put the opener out of reach.
“We had a couple of big plays and relied a lot on our fourth and fifth year guys,” Thompson said. “We played a clean football game. I think we let up one big play, and that hurt us a little bit, but I’m extremely proud of how hard those guys played. Cam’s run came at a big time. It was kind of a spot in the game where we broke it open and that changed things.”
Jackson finished with 110 yards on only nine carries. Allen added 91 yards on 16 carries.
Jackson became the 12th Bulldog to eclipse 2,000 yards for his career on his long touchdown run in the third. He has 2,058 career yards is the career leader in yards per carry, a number he helped tonight averaging 12.2 yards per carry. He didn’t factor into over 240 yards of offense for the Dogs in the first half, but picked his moment to swing the opener of his senior year in the right direction.
“We were slowly trying to grind it out on offense and defense gave us the ball back plenty of times, we just needed to make something happen,” Jackson said. “All night I was hunting and picking, looking for a gap, instead of just hitting it and I finally hit it. Raleigh Webb had a great block on the outside and I just took off.”
The defense gave the Bulldogs the ball back plenty, forcing three turnovers and a few short fields on three-and-outs. Newberry was only 3-of-10 on third-down conversions.
Sophomore Ja’Lon Williams disrupted Newberry’s passing game all night, finishing with 4.0 tackles for loss and a sack. The Bulldogs had six tackles for loss and held Newberry to only 55 offensive plays, holding almost a 10-minute advantage in time of possession.
The Citadel struck first, marching 75 yards on 12 plays as Grant Drakeford sparked the offense. Drakeford broke loose from 29 yards out for the game’s first touchdown. Brandon Rainey had a 12-yard run on the drive and quarterback Dominique Allen found Cam Jackson for seven yards on third down to keep the drive alive.
The Bulldogs looked poised to jump out by two scores, but a fourth-down attempt from inside the five was ruled just short of the marker. A replay challenge didn’t change the mark and Newberry took over inside its own five.
Newberry’s Will Elm intercepted Allen on the ensuing possession to set up a 1-yard TD run by the Wolves’ Darius Clark to knot the score at 7-7. The Bulldogs managed just 46 yards of offense in the first half, 42 on one play.
The Bulldog defense set up The Citadel’s next score. The Citadel kept Newberry backed up
inside its own five following a 46-yard punt by Noah Cannon. The Citadel capitalized with an 11-play, 45-yard drive sparked by Jordan Black. Black dove in from 1-yard out to give The Citadel a 14-7 lead at the half.
Following Jackson’s third-quarter blow, Black came back on and led a 10-play, 80-yard drive, highlighted by a 37-yard completion to Raleigh Webb and a 6-yard touchdown pass to Josh LeBlanc, the first TD reception of his career.
The Bulldogs rushed for 374 yards and had 454 yards of offense in the win. Newberry had only 276 yards of total offense and was under 250 until the final drive.
Junior Aron Spann III helped the defensive cause in the fourth quarter, running a post route with a Newberry wide receiver for his first interception of the season. Freshman Wally Wilmore grabbed one in the closing seconds to ice the game away.
The Bulldogs host Presbyterian next Saturday night at Johnson Hagood Stadium. Kickoff is at 6 p.m.